Sunday, 4 September 2016

Tea, cake and my new favourite place

In true English fashion I am a tea enthusiast. I mostly drink a variety of black teas but I'm rather partial to herbal and fruit ones these days too (but not green, I don't think anyone truly loves green tea). And what goes perfectly with tea? Why cake, of course!

I started my tea and cake journey accidentally, when my friend Anna (who had dragged me shopping on Oxford Street) announced that there was a bakery nearby that did a great chocolate cake. Eager to escape the shops - shopping is torturous when you have no money - and never one to turn down tea or cake, I dutifully followed Anna down to the Soho branch of Gail's Artisan Bakery.  It was a small bakery with minimalist decor - all exposed white brick walls, wooden tables and blue cups. I had recently eaten so instead of the heavier chocolate cake I opted for a sour cherry and dark chocolate scone with a pot of tea. The bigger cakes were quite pricey to eat in and while the scone was good, it wasn't amazing. Next time I go I think I'll try the chocolate cake.

Yesterday I was having a picnic in Green Park with a friend when it started to rain. Wondering where we could go that wasn't too far or too crowded, the thought of a tea room I'd seen years ago popped into my head. It was the Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall, a place I'd walked past every day for two weeks when I was doing my Walker Books internship but had never gone in. It was only three stops away on the Victoria line and my memory from 2012 somehow led me to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and the darling tea room.

As soon as I stepped through the threshold I knew I'd found 'my' place. The interior was part old-fashioned study, part bric a brac store and totally me. A variety of board games were available to play, there was a stack of newspapers for reading and even a toy chest for the kids. It felt cluttered but in a deliberate way, as if this was part of the aesthetic rather than because they didn't know how to clean.

There was more food than just tea and cake on the menu, but those were the main attractions, with a huge list of different types of tea. The cakes were dotted around the cafe under glass domes and I spotted a delectable red velvet cake immediately. The specialty teas were also a bit on the steep side, with £6 for a personal pot or £9 to share. There was a good deal on the house tea, though - £8 for a pot for two plus a slice of cake (so the other person would only need to buy another slice of cake in theory) which we went for. I had the red velvet cake which was very sweet and very tasty. The pot was loose leaf and came with a knitted tea cosy. We spent a good few hours sipping tea and playing scrabble.

If the relaxed vibe and cute interior wasn't enough, they also have a cat! A shy little black and white thing, who twisted its way around the tables, ignoring the outstretched hand of every patron who tried to pet it. I'm not one to see a cat without stroking it, so I sort of lured it out and then forced my affection on it. It liked - well, tolerated - me in the end.

The Tea House Theatre also doubles for a performance venue, hence the 'theatre' in the name, with poetry readings, plays, dances and all sorts going on in the evenings. I'm definitely going to try to go to one of those events someday. It is one of those places I can see myself going back to again and again, each time bringing someone new to discover its quirky charm.

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